The big night was coming! I spent most of the week practicing my conducting patterns that my music minister taught me; after all, I had to conduct the congregation to all the hymns I selected for the night. If I didn’t conduct a 4/4 pattern properly, surely the congregation would be lost. I worked on my songs and even rehearsed my important transitional lines, “now please turn in your hymnals to page 323 and we’ll sing the 1st, 2nd, and 4th verse.” I memorized when to stand and seat the congregation and rehearsed my offertory prayer about hundred times. The big night in our church happened once a year and it was called “Youth Night.” It was the night that the music portion of the service was turned over to the students. We planned it. We led all the music and I was the fortunate youth choir member that was selected to lead the congregational singing. The adults were kicked off the platform for the night and the youth took over! It was a fun night but only one night. The following Sunday night services were back to normal where the younger generation was relegated to the pews and the older generation was back on the platform.
Ah yes… remember the “good ‘ol days?” Truth is, they were good days but God is doing something even greater in the modern church today. Today young and old can be found worshipping together, leading together, side by side on the platform, in the band, orchestra, and on the choir risers. The defining phrase that is showing up in many worship ministry conversations is “Multi-Generational Worship.” It’s certainly a new phrase, but the practice has been around for a couple thousand years. I believe it is a concept that is ancient with its roots deep and throughout the Bible. “Young men and maidens, old men and children. Let them praise the name of the Lord” (Psalm 148:12-13)
I have the privilege of being the Worship Pastor at Sugar Creek Baptist Church in Sugar Land, Texas. We are a fast growing, multi-ethnic and multi-generational church. Every Sunday I look out from the platform and see the most diverse congregation I have ever led in worship. We have over 90 countries represented in our church and each of our services is made up of every age group imaginable. The Lord laid on my heart a few years ago to not only seek God in ways to connect with our ethnically diverse congregation, but to also connect with every age that is a part of our services. As a worship leader, it is imperative for me and our worship ministry to be sensitive to the vast diversity of our congregation and help lead every race and every age into the very throne room of praise. In order to connect and help guide our diverse congregation, the platform should resemble the diversity of our church.
This past Sunday was a beautiful picture of our church’s diversity. We invited our children’s worship ministry to join our worship choir on the risers to lead out in worship. Notice I didn’t say to “perform” their songs but to “join” with our choir to “lead” in worship. Our risers were overflowing with every color and every age. It was a beautiful picture that I know pleased the Father. As a matter of fact, it was a biblical picture… a heavenly picture. Not only will every tribe and nation gather around the throne in worship (Revelation 5), but I guarantee you that those saints of God in that heavenly worship service will be multi-generational. On Sunday, our church responded to the worship leadership of our multi-generational choir and I know our Lord was honored by the praises of all His children.
For many years of my ministry I had student choirs. I love student choirs and for those churches that have those programs, I say keep them going and use those students in worship leadership. At Sugar Creek, the student choir has been very difficult to get going again. One of the first things I did in coming here was to build a bridge for all of our students to join us in worship leadership on Sundays. We quit calling the choir an “adult choir” and called it a “worship choir.” I opened the choir up for all students. What a thrill it is to see teenagers, senior adults, and everyone in between singing, clapping, lifting their hands, and worshipping together in our choir…modeling passionate worship for our congregation. By the way, not only does allowing students to sing in your worship choir help the choir’s effectiveness, it does lower the average age! One of the best ways to help your choir grow younger is to allow the younger generation to participate. In addition to choir participation, we have kept a good bridge between our worship ministry and student ministry and have given frequent opportunities for students whom God has uniquely gifted to lead out in worship with our worship leader staff.
Not only is multi-generational worship effective in worship ministry, but it also brings God’s people together. It unifies the church. I’m excited to see this trend in our churches today. Young and old can worship together. Not only can they, but I’d submit to you that they should worship together. At Sugar Creek we strive hard to bring the generations together in worship. As a matter of fact, “Generational Relevance” is a core value of our church. It is who we are and what we are about.
I’m thankful for my music minister who taught me how to conduct and gave me an opportunity at “youth night” to lead. Those were special times for me. I learned a lot and God birthed in my heart a desire to worship Him and lead others in worship. I want to give that same leadership opportunity to the younger generation at Sugar Creek and inspire them to use their God-given talents and gifts for His glory. Instead of having just one Sunday a year for that opportunity, at Sugar Creek we do it 52 Sundays a year. We don’t call it “youth Sunday.” We call it multi-generational worship.